Coronavirus: Atalanta Bergamo-Valencia, “match-zero” of the epidemic?


On that day, February 19, there were 45,792 spectators at the San Siro stadium in Milan to see Atalanta crush Valencia 4-1 in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Tens of thousands of Bergamasques made the short trip, by bus, car or train, in what was the most important game in the history of their club. Some went straight to the stadium, others spent the day in the city, crossing and drinking glasses with those of Valencia around the Duomo square. Everyone then came to San Siro by metro. At the exit, the victory was celebrated at length with a few beers and sandwich trucks.

The threat was then still far away. But two days after the match, Adriano Trevisan died at the age of 78 near Padua and became the first coronavirus death in Europe.

A few more days and the Spanish journalist Kike Mateu, present in Milan on February 19, tested positive at home in Spain. At the beginning of March, it was then learned that a man who died on February 13 near Valencia was infected with coronavirus, which therefore circulated in the region before the match in Milan.

And from March 4, 15 days after the meeting, the curve of the number of infected in Bergamo began to straighten abruptly, the Lombard city becoming one of the areas most affected by the epidemic. Has Atalanta-Valence started everything?

“Contagion vehicle”

Health officials and local authorities do not go that far but make no secret of it, the match has certainly contributed to the gravity of the current situation. “During this evening, 40,000 residents of Bergamo went to Milan to watch the match. They regrouped at the stadium. Many others watched it from home, as a family, as a group, at the bar. It is clear that there has been an opportunity for the virus to spread widely, “said Bergamo mayor Giorgio Gori on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, Walter Ricciardi, representative of Italy to the World Health Organization (WHO), made a similar speech on Rai News 24, saying that the match had been an “accelerator of the spread of the virus”.

“I think the February 19 game played an important role. A third of the population of Bergamo concentrated in a stadium and partied, “he said. “It is no coincidence that Bergamo is the most affected area and it is no coincidence that the Valencians who went from Italy to Spain acted as transmitters in their country.”

Already last week, several specialists had admitted that the holding of the match had an impact on the spread of the virus.
“This match could certainly have been an important contagion vehicle,” said Massimo Galli, head of the infectious diseases department at Sacco Hospital in Milan. “I think the epidemic had started before, in the countryside, during agricultural fairs or in village cafes,” he said.

“Unfortunately, it was a biological bomb”, for his part estimated in the Corriere della Sera Fabiano Di Marco, head of the pulmonology department of the John XXIII hospital in Bergamo.

In an interview with Corriere dello Sport, Francesco Le Foche, an immunologist at Umberto I hospital in Rome, spoke to him about “match-zero”.
“In retrospect, it was crazy to play this match in public but things were not yet very clear,” he said. They were already a little over three weeks later, when Atalanta went to Valencia to play the return leg behind closed doors.

“It was terrible. There was no control, they were quiet, “said Alejandro Gomez, Argentinian captain of Atalanta.
A week after this match won 4-2 by the Italians, the Valencia club announced 35% of positive cases among its players and staff members and Atalanta entered quarantine.

On Tuesday evening, the Lombard club announced that its N.2 goalkeeper Marco Sportiello had tested positive for coronavirus. He was titular in Valencia.

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